by Gabrielle Tull, Costa Rica Tropical Ecology Study Abroad Participant
This international experience was really a life changer and an eye-opening experience. I did things I would have never imagined and exceeded my personal self expectations. I zip-lined over the rainforest, hiked a 5 mile trail with steep terrain and navigated the Sarapiqui River rapids on a raft. The greatest take away from Costa Rica was the generosity and care the local people had towards us and towards nature. Costa Rica is such a diverse country and they really care about protecting what is left of their beautiful country.
In Costa Rica, we visited three different rainforest regions. We were high in the beautiful cloud forest of Monteverde, near the base of Arenal volcano and in the lowland rainforest La Selva. It was a surreal and tranquil experience to be as high as the clouds. Being in Monteverde, breathing the fresh air and seeing the lush vegetation was so much better than simply looking at pictures of the place. Also, seeing the plant and animal interactions in action has helped enhance my learning of ecology. The most interesting interaction was the leaf cutter ants and the fungus they feed leaves to eat. The ants are such strong creatures and it was incredible to see the ants carrying leaves 5 times larger than them.
The locals had a phase they used often, pura vida. “Pura Vida” was literally translated to pure life but was used as a greeting and is a motto for the country. The concept of pura vida and living life to its fullest has stayed with me and has become a part my lifestyle. I will always have a little bit of Costa Rican lifestyle with me.